Due to the red fertile soil and favorable climate in Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani,
strawberry, raspberry, mulberry, gooseberry are grown in abundance. The jam factories
are located in Panchgani. The Britisher's brought these strawberry plantations from
Australia and planted in Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar and today these strawberries
etc are exported to various countries. Lovely Mahabaleshwar strawberries are well
known for their taste and are sent out in packages to different places. Mahabaleshwar
resides in its strawberry farm and for which it is widely known. Rows of yummy
and juicy strawberry plantations over acres of land compel the awe out of the visitors
when seen at close glance. Proudly, Mahabaleshwar is India’s sole strawberry estate
with 1500 acres of land under its farming, and to compliment a trip to the picturesque
home is always incomplete without a small trip to strawberry farm. A number of farms,
almost all owned by these local people of Mahabaleshwar, hold a special delight
for visitors. Some of the famous strawberry spots are Archies Farm, Hirkani Garden,
Shilpa Farm, Garden’s Green House, Mapro Garden and Deepak Bagh. Early morning or
pre-noon visit creates good chances to catch farmers at work in the strawberry farm.
To add to it, the farm owners throw a cordial welcome to guest and invite them to
pluck and feel the smell of strawberries. Getting a chance to see the strawberries
packed is an experience for the reason that these perishable fruits are packed with
great care in shallow containers. At many farms guests are offered to taste strawberry
shakes Ice-creams and fresh strawberry. Buying these fruit in bulk is also offered
at a minimal price at the outlets in Mahabaleshwar. The hill station recently attracted
huge crowds for its annual Strawberry festival that was held here for two days.
The festival attracts a stream of tourists from across India and abroad made a beeline
to relish the orchard's fresh strawberry and its products here. Mahabaleshwar region
is the largest producer of strawberry in India. The first timers regretted on not
being aware about the strawberry festival all these years. But they promised to
visit here again every year during this time. The objective was to invite tourists
to taste the farm fresh strawberries and also promote the fruit as a healthy nutrient.
The production of the fruit has been increasingly encouraging. It is also exported
to various countries. "Presently, 1,350 farmers have been cultivating the fruit
in 34 villages in Mahabaleshwar who have produced 13,000 metric tonnes. We export
the frozen strawberries to Belgium, France, Sri Lanka and Australia. Moreover, with
the coming up of the Malls and corporate sector, it has benefited us as well as
the farmers," said Bakasaheb Bhilare a strawberry grower. The festival was
organised by farmers in association with Mapro Company that owns strawberry farms
and also manufactures. Archies farm is a good place to have fresh strawberry milk
shakes, Strawberry Ice-Creams and Crushes.
May to June is actually right time to see and pluck ripe strawberries. However,
another round of best season to quench the crunch for vivacious red fruits returns
in the months of October to May.
Situated 20 km from Mahabaleshwar, Old Mahabaleshwar is laced with wonderful scenaries
and temples. This ancestral version of new Mahabaleshwar is a great venue for trekking
which challenges every adventure enthusiast to trek up to 1372 m high. There are
number of beautiful temples perched on the top, filling the air with the power of
divinity. If the new Mahabaleshwar is known as the 'strawberry country' inviting
traveler to taste the red berries and the famous chikki, the old Mahabaleshwar is
a sacred venue dotted with temples and is called kshetra Mahabaleshwar. This auspicious
part of the hill station is a revered site housing number of pilgrimage of deities
and Goddess. Those who are looking for a meditative experience will be enchanted
to see the five natural springs pouring water into a rock which looks like a tank.
These springs are the sources of various rivers such as Konya, Krishna, Savitri
and a whole lot more. This is supposed to be one of the oldest settlements on the
plateau. Kshetra or Old Mahabaleshwar village is a cluster of about fifty houses.
It is about six km. north of the town. The present settlement has grown into a substantial
size with addition of new houses, lodges, hotels, bungalows and resorts. This is
a holy place for Hindus and is known for its ancient temples. The most important
among them is the Panchganga temple. As the name suggests this is the source of
five sacred rivers – the Krishna, the Savitri, the Koyna, the Venna and the Gayatri.
A stream course coming from the hill behind the temple has been directed into the
temples and divided into five channels by stone masonry work. These five channels
are said to be the sources of five rivers mentioned above. On the outermost side
there are two more channels which are said to be the sources of Sarasvati and Bhagirathi
– these last two rivers along with river Gayatri are said to be hidden and appear
only on certain auspicious days. All the water from the five channels is directed
towards a square shaped water cistern called Brahmakund (the tank of Lord Brahma)
through a gomukh and into Vishnuteerth (the tank of Lord Vishnu) an adjoining tank.
This water is further taken through an underground channel into Rudra Kund near
the Rudreshwar temple and from there into Chakrateerth, which is in ruins. From
there the water is seemed to be taken to the Krishnabai temple on the edge of the
settlement this channel is off course damaged in ruins. The Krishnabai temple referred
above is the most beautiful of all the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar temples, but unfortunately
it is quite neglected because of its isolated location. There is a Pitrumukh temple,
Aranyakund and Malapahteerth in the vicinity of the temple. There are two small
temples near the main Panchganga temple both of them dedicated to Lord Shiva. These
are the Mahabaleshwar temples and Atibaleshwar temple which in fact is dedicated
to Lord Vishnu. The story behind these two temples is like this, during the Puranic
times there were two demons named Mahabal and Atibal. Both of them were creating
trouble for common people, who prayed to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu to get rid of
these demons. Accordingly Lord Shiva killed Mahabal whereas Lord Vishnu killed Atibal.
Before breathing their last, both the demons requested that they may be immortalized
by building temples commemorating them and hence came these two temples into being.
There is a sacred tank called Hans teerth near these temples. Another smaller temple
is the Kedareshwar temple said to be built by Maharani Ahilyabai of Indore. On the
hill slope behind the Panchganga temple, there is a small Hanuman temple, supposed
to be established by Sant Ramdas. The temple is a vantage point and gives a panoramic
view of the Old Mahabaleshwar temple.